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The Eucharist as the Hound of Heaven
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
August 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
I suppose my first encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist in a Benediction service was in a manner of speaking a "blind date." My brother invited me to a Benediction Service at St. Mary's in Austin, Texas. Like most blind dates, I did not really know what I was getting into. Indeed, I do not remember much of the actual service itself--it happened many years ago--but I will never forget what Feet followed my feet out of the Church.CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The Eucharist, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is the "source and summit of the Christian life," and the "heart and the summit of the Church's life."
One of the central truths and mysteries of the Faith the Lord delivered to his apostles is that when a validly ordained priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine, the substance of the bread and wine--that is the reality behind the species of bread and wine--becomes something else entirely.
The elements become really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ, which is to say "Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner . . . with his soul and divinity."
The Catechism merely states in another way the clear and unambiguous meaning of Jesus' words of promise in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. These are the promises by Jesus that he would give us Living Bread, that his Flesh was this Living Bread, that this Flesh-Bread, like the God-Man he was, was the life of the world, and finally that he who eats of this Flesh shall live forever. (Cf. John 6:51-52).
These words of the Lord were brought into partial fulfillment in the Upper Room at Jerusalem when the Lord, anticipating his Crucifixion, celebrated during the Jewish Passover, the Last Supper and the first Mass. "Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail."
This First Mass reached its apex and full manifestation when the Victim Lord suffered and died on the altar of the Cross offering himself as the great High Priest, though not before referring to Psalm 21 which promised that the "poor shall eat and be filled: and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their hearts shall live for ever and ever," a virtual reference to his teachings in the Gospel of John.
What happens when the Eucharistic elements are confected is extraordinary, and this change in the substance of the bread and wine demands a response from us. We cannot be lukewarm. "Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration," states the Catechism.
In other words, the Eucharist is to be worshiped as God.
It would be wrong to adore--with the adoration due God alone known as latreia--the bread and wine before the consecration. It would be idolatry.
It would be wrong not to adore--with the adoration due God alone--the consecrated elements after their consecration. It would be sacrilege. Rightly do we sing at benediction: "Down in adoration falling, Lo! the sacred Host we hail."
To be sure, this is a truth unseen. It is a truth believed. "Faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail."
Nowhere is the Church's doctrine of transubstantiation brought home in a more forceful manner than in a Benediction service, a service which is only intelligible if the Church's teaching regarding transubstantiation is true.
The Benediction service is unintelligible if the Sacrament of the Eucharist is only a symbol, or only a sign, and the rite of confection of the Eucharist only a drama. If there is no transubstantiation, the rite of Benediction is anomalous, even blasphemous. As Flannery O'Connor said in another context, if the Eucharist is only a symbol, then to hell with it.
A Benediction service is an example of the ancient formula lex orandi lex credendi. You pray how you believe. The Benediction Service is a service about the Real Presence.
I say all this by way of background because--for me in a very literal way--Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was like the poet Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven." Jesus' Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist pursued me like a hound of heaven, and by the time this Divine Suitor caught up with me, I was smitten and in love.
I suppose my first encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist in a Benediction service was in a manner of speaking a "blind date." My brother invited me to a Benediction Service at St. Mary's in Austin, Texas. Like most blind dates, I did not really know what I was getting into. Indeed, I do not remember much of the actual service itself--it happened many years ago--but I will never forget what Feet followed my feet out of the Church.
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
From the time I left the Benediction service, everywhere I seemed to walk I kept hearing within me--with "uhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace," in that "deliberate speed, and majestic instancy" of the modu Gregoriano--the melody of that hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Tantum ergo, that had been sung. And with the hymn came its words--"a Voice beat more instant than the Feet."
That Benediction service, so far as I can recall, was the first time I had ever heard sung the Latin words of St. Thomas's hymn to the Eucharist:
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui
Praestet fides supplementum
And yet, remarkably, though hearing the hymn and those words only once, and at that time being ignorant of Latin, those six verses verbatim never left my memory. They hounded me. I consider this experience to be one of the great actual graces of my life.
When waking in the morning.
When walking to work.
When at work.
When going to class.
When at class.
When leaving class.
When going back home after studying at the library.
When lying in bed at night preparing for bed.
Those six verses consumed me, repeating themselves to me, beckoning me, wooing me, casting a spell on me. In a word, the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was hounding me.
Hounding me? Me?
How hast though merited--
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Who wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
Yes. The Lord of Love was hounding even me, the most unworthy of lovers, me.
But this--the Gospel vouches for it--is what the Good Shepherd does. He leaves the ninety and nine faithful and pursues the one lamb who wanders off. (Luke 15:4: Matt. 18:12) I was that lamb.
Yes. The Eucharistic Lord pursued me, and through this grace announced his invitation to "clasp My hand, and come!"
Not long after this experience, I took those steps needed to join the Catholic communion and enjoy the love of Jesus full and entire.
Yes, Jesus, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, you are no thing, for I hear your Voice, a voice of a Person, saying: "It is I. Do not be afraid." (Matt. 14:27) And the Voice of this Person, hidden behind the accidental veils of bread and wine, reminds me, time and time again,
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
Thank-you Jesus for hounding me.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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